Fresh and Light Lemon Bars Recipe

By Marcus Samuelsson |

Winter weather inspires warm and comforting meals-stews, soups, and braises that are carb-heavy and rich. As delicious as these foods are, it’s nice to enjoy something bright and sweet.

A lemon bar can transcend the heaviness and remind me that warmer weather and sunny days are in the not-so-distant-future.  There is no better fruit than a lemon to help clarify that vision.

The simple and humble lemon is the perfect fruit in this dessert that for me sometimes doubles as an indulgent breakfast treat.  Lemon Bars are a classic, and there are many recipes for this treat, but I promise you none are as good as this recipe that I adapted from Thomas Keller’s cookbook Ad Hoc at Home.

They start with a crust that tastes and smells like the perfect sugar cookie.  It’s then topped with a velvety and tart, stove-top lemon curd.  All you need is a dollop of freshly whipped cream (or piped meringue if you’re feeling fancy) and you have yourself a little bite of sunshine, no sunscreen required.

Tara O’Keeffe is a food writer and founder of



10 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp granulated sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla paste (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)

1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour


1 cup fresh lemon juice

6 large eggs

6 egg yolks

1 1/4 cup granulated sugar

9 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into small chunks, at room temperature

To Garnish

Fresh whipped cream



Photo: Tara O’Keeffe

1. Put the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat for 3 minutes until light and creamy, scraping down the sides as necessary. Add the vanilla. Then add the flour 1/4 cup at a time, mixing until just incorporated. The dough should not form a mass, but should hold together when you squeeze it.

2. Transfer dough to a parchment lined baking sheet, pat into a rectangle, wrap with plastic, and refrigerate at least 30 minutes. Remove, let stand at room temperature to soften before rolling. Cover with another piece of parchment paper and roll out to a 12-by-16-inch rectangle.

3. Set out a 9-by-13-inch baking dish and line with enough parchment paper that handles hang over the edge and coat with cooking spray. Remove the top piece of parchment and invert dough into the baking dish. Fit the dough into the dish, pressing it evenly over the bottom and up the sides. Patch any cracks with small pieces from the scraps. Prick the bottom and sides of the crust with a fork to prevent it from rising. Chill for 5 minutes.

4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake crust until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through for even baking. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool to room temperature.

5. Combine the lemon juice, eggs, yolks, and sugar in the top of a double boiler and whisk for 5 minutes, or until the mixture thickens and holds shape when the whisk is lifted. Remove from heat and whisk in butter bit by bit.
Strain the curd through a fine-mesh strainer into the crust, shake the pan gently to distribute the filling evenly. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and freeze for at least several hours, until frozen solid.

6. Use the parchment handles to lift the sheet of lemon bars out of the dish and place onto a cutting surface and let defrost for at least 10 minutes. As soon as you can get your knife through, cut the bars into equal squares. Chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

To serve: Top chilled bars with a spoonful of freshly whipped cream and garnish with a raspberry.